More than 103,000 Nicaraguans left the country between January and May 2022, an unprecedented number in Nicaragua’s recent history. This number only includes data from those who arrived in the United States and Costa Rica, the two main destinations for Nicaraguan migrants.
In May, US Customs and Border Protection recorded a record number of Nicaraguans apprehended at US borders in a single month: 18,998. So far in 2022, there have been 72,699 captures of Nicaraguan migrants.
In Costa Rica, between January and May, migration authorities received 30,795 new refugee applications from Nicaraguans, according to data provided by Manuel Orozco, migration specialist and Inter-American Dialogue researcher. Orozco points out that Nicaraguans arriving in these two countries typically account for 90% of all migration from Nicaragua.
“Even with a return of 15%, we are talking that between 2020 and 2022, 400,000 people will have left Nicaragua,” explains Orozco. To illustrate the magnitude of the increase in the departure of Nicaraguans, he explains that, considering that the annual growth of the Nicaraguan population is 1.2% according to the World Bank – around 78,000 per year -, we can say that there are more people leaving the country than being born.
Nicaragua has always been a country of migrants. For decades, Nicaraguans have left due to political instability, natural disasters and lack of opportunity.
The main destinations were Costa Rica, where, according to official figures, 300,000 Nicas live; the United States, home to some 460,000 Nicas; and Spain with 60,000. However, Orozco points out, there is currently an accelerated growth never seen before, with the highest numbers in Nicaragua’s contemporary history, even greater than during the civil war of the 1980s.
Origen: Ortega’s repression
The current increase in Nicaraguan migration has its roots in the socio-political crisis of 2018, which not only remains unresolved, but has worsened due to state repression, continued human rights abuses, the lack of civil liberties and the consolidation of the dictatorship. by Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.
Between 2018 and 2019, tens of thousands of Nicaraguans left during the bloodiest months of the repression ordered by the Ortega-Murillo regime to crush a massive citizen rebellion demanding democracy, justice and human rights.
In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the closure of borders in almost all countries of the hemisphere, the migratory flow has decreased.
In mid-2021, when the government unleashed a new wave of repression ahead of the general elections in November that year, the number of people leaving Nicaragua increased again, amid arbitrary arrests and political prosecutions against seven opposition presidential candidates, civic leaders, farmers, businessmen, journalists and human rights defenders who remain in prison. In total, at least 120,000 Nicaraguans left the country in 2021.
The migratory flow of the first months of 2022 is already almost equal to the total amount of last year. “If the trend continues, and there are 225,000 (new migrants) by the end of December 2022, it will be 3.3% of the population”, in a year, projects Orozco.
Added to the socio-political crisis is a difficult economic situation faced by Nicaraguans, including unemployment, the high cost of living and an economy that has not recovered from the recession and economic downturn of the past four years, product of the crisis and the ravages of the pandemic. Currently, the population is also facing further increases in fuel and food prices, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Figures similar to the “Northern Triangle”
For decades, the majority of Central American migrants heading to the United States came from the so-called “Northern Triangle” of Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Today, the number of Nicaraguans arriving at the US border increasingly resembles that of Hondurans (78,411) and Guatemalans (95,293); and is higher than that of Salvadorans (38,997) over the same period from January to May 2022.
Meanwhile, since 2018, Costa Rica has racked up a total of 130,000 asylum applications from Nicaraguans, said Costa Rican Foreign Minister Arnoldo André Tinoco, who said this week that the migration issue is ” a very high priority” for the government’s foreign policy. of President Rodrigo Chaves, who took office in May.
Tinoco explained that the international cooperation that Costa Rica has received to provide assistance to refugees and asylum seekers has been “insufficient” and that, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they have proposed to adopt strategies to seek further international financial support.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times